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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Power 16: January 29, 2012

The Racers danced with excitement when I informed them of their inclusion
in my latest Power 16.  This is the type of reaction we like to see here at Sportstemps.

January's nearly over and there's still quite a bit of shuffling going on.  Syracuse finally lost, a third team entered the ACC title discussion (Florida St.), Wisconsin's back making the Big Ten more muddled than ever, and mid-majors are on the rise.  February is the most important month of the year since it's the last chance for teams to grab quality wins before the conference tournaments and mid-majors get to play in Bracket Busters.  This is also the month where the average fan who wants to win money in their bracket pools should begin to pay attention. Read on to see who's moved since the last Power 16.

              vs. RPI top 50
22-1 (9-1)
21-1 (7-0)
Ohio St.
18-3 (6-2)
North Carolina
17-3 (4-1)

Though Syracuse lost at Notre Dame, they still sit atop the Big East and are an impressive 4-0 against the RPI top 50 with three of those wins coming against top 25 teams.  Kentucky won a close one last weekend against Alabama and now have a commanding lead in the SEC.  Their only loss remains a one point defeat at Indiana making this team a lock for a 1 seed.  Don't look now but Ohio St. is officially on a roll - playing Nebraska and Penn St. helps - and are sitting in a first place tie with Michigan St. in the Big Ten. UNC moves into the 1's almost by default as Baylor continues to struggle with the best teams.

               vs. RPI top 50
18-3 (5-1)
17-4 (7-1)
19-2 (6-2)
Michigan St.
17-4 (6-2)

Last weekend's loss to Florida St. shouldn't hurt the Blue Devils too much. They've won two straight games since and are quietly moving up the ranks into 1 seed territory.  It's been a tough week for Kansas even though they went 2-1.  They're still in first place in the Big 12 but their next three games will really test the Jayhawks with games vs. Oklahoma, at Missouri, and at Baylor.  Go 3-0 here and they'll be a 1 seed. Baylor proved victorious in a squeaker over Texas which was a much needed win after losing consecutive games to Kansas and Missouri.   Michigan St.'s impressive week isn't enough to move them up in the seeding but closed the gap between them and Duke.  If they can manage to win at Illinois and home against Michigan things will get pretty interesting.

               vs. RPI top 50
19-2 (6-2)
20-3 (4-1)
16-4 (6-3)
18-4 (7-2)

Missouri's loss at OSU this week didn't do much damage but it's created a bit of a gap between them at the 2's.  They'll need a couple of big wins to get the committee to consider them an elite team.  Winners of four straight - though two of the overtime variety - give the Runnin Rebels the biggest jump in the Power 16 rankings.  Next weekend's game at underrated Wyoming will put the streak to the test. Georgetown's surprising loss to underachieving Pitt (at home no less) knocks them to third in the Big East.  They're fortunate other teams with similar profiles struggled this week. Marquette's won six straight in Big East play to climb back into the rankings.  There are few nights where teams can take it easy in conference play so another strong week will go a long way in securing their seeding.

              vs. RPI top 50
20-2 (10-1)
Murray St.
21-0 (9-0)
17-5 (6-3)
St. Mary's
21-2 (10-0)

Yes, MVC fans I'm finally giving Creighton their due (I'll also spell their nickname correctly: Bluejays). Ten straight wins in conference play is notable regardless of which conference you're in and a an unblemished record against the top teams in the RPI means there's potential to move up.  Murray St. continues to take care of business and with only seven games left the likelihood of running the table remains strong.  I don't care who you are, going undefeated this far into the season is impressive.   Wisconsin looked to be left for dead when they started 1-3 in Big Ten play but six straight victories has moved them back into the conversation for a protected seed.  St. Mary's may be the nation's most surprising team.  Picked by coaches in the preseason poll to finish 3rd in the WCC, the Gaels have been one of the most impressive teams in the country.  Their non-conference strength of schedule is the only thing holding them back at this point.

Also considered: Florida, Vanderbilt, Kansas St., Virginia, Indiana, Florida St. 
Dropped out: Indiana, Illinois, Connecticut, Virginia, Kansas St.
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